When talking with men

Let me be clear on this: when I am most mocking and piquant about my husband, it’s a sign we’re having fun. When I start writing serious blog posts entitled Thirty Days of Honor, you can bet we’re not doing so well. Ultimate low point of our marriage, right there. Take my word for it; you won’t get any details. Now–where was I? Ah yes. Mocking.


We’ve all been in this conversation, haven’t we?


The day you bring him a concern and he sits there and looks at you. The day you realize that the thing you asked him for a year ago has been sitting in the basement all this time. The day you ask him a question and he walks out of the room. The day you complain of shooting pains in your wrist and he says calmly, “It’s probably repetitive stress injury” and goes on typing.

(You think I’m making this up? My imagination’s not that good… true stuff, ya’ll.)

It’s a great story. It’s a pressing issue. It’s an urgent question, for Pete’s sake. And yet he is unmoved.

Are all men like this?

Sometimes I say to him, “Talk to me!” This occurs when I have been immersed in juvenile conversations all day and am desperate for words longer than one syllable; or when I have been talking too long and I know I won’t shut up unless someone else starts vocalizing; or when he is making enigmatic faces and it’s stressing me out.


Early in marriage, my husband taught me a few rules of basic marital English.

  1. Be as direct as possible already! Don’t make me guess where you’re going.
  2. Use words that start with w, not c. “Would you/ Will you?” not “Could you/ Can you?” that seem to challenge my ability.
  3. Don’t give me a task list when I’m rushed with other things.
  4. Don’t pepper me with questions!

Let me be clear on this: I was raised by a marriage counselor. When I hound this boy, I do it with style.

But sometimes, just to show off, I humor him. He comes home from the fire call or the pastoral meeting or the boy expedition and I think of the fifty-nine things I want to ask him. I think of them all, individually, and then carefully I compact them into one well-worded, all-encompassing, leading, invitational question. “How was it, honey?”

“Good,” he says.*

And exits.

{Shari rushes out of doors to slay something inanimate before she starts hurling china at living organisms.}

* {And perhaps this is unfair. If he’s had a Coke or two to loosen his tongue he may say “Really good.”}


Here are my (brief) suggestions for communicating (briefly) with men. Some of them may be my father’s, who has forgotten more on this topic than anyone else ever knew.

1. Say less.

A wise friend of mine advises speaking 49% of what you really want to say.

2. Wait.

Men’s ears are like gardens: you put in the seed and then you wait for a while. A long while. He may have every intention of coming around, but he won’t be rushed. The idea has to take root.

3. Say it one more time.

Occasionally, he actually forgets. If so, he will have only hazy memories of your initial conversation, and will not realize you are repeating yourself. Just don’t do it a third time. (He’ll think it’s the second.) That’s so beyond the pale, way out into the nagging camp.

4. Let it go his way.

I’m not advocating being a doormat. Believe me. In the Wifely Olympics I won the prize for Least Like a Doormat so many years running they won’t even let me participate anymore. But—

It’s a good day to remember that eleven years ago, or however many it was, you made a promise that it was going to be all about this man until the day you die. And he’s not the only one with faults.

And some days, magically, you’ll get it just right.



All photos in this post were captured, not staged–and taken by my talented friend Shaunda Stoltzfus. Featuring her son and my daughter.

Coming up sometime, probably: “When Talking with Women.”

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9 years ago

You and Shaunda should work together some more – I loved the combination of visual and verbal messages here…

Brenda Troyer
9 years ago

My girlfriend always says…”you marry the strong and silent type and then sure enough… they are strong and silent.” Was it really in the basement the WHOLE time? You guys rock!

Sharon Yoder
9 years ago

And now wondering if the boss has anything to say about this post. . .

9 years ago

Oh my… the pictures! The humor! Its all so good. I should be cleaning the house and doing laundry after a week of revivals but I’m so glad I stopped in here first. Your writing is a breath of fresh air. Jo

9 years ago

Hi. This is the Boss, and I approved this message.

Travis Zook
9 years ago
Reply to  The Boss

Good to see this comment. I thought it best that the woman’s discourse should have at least some comment from the subject matter.

9 years ago


9 years ago

Love it, Shari. My hardest one? The 49 percent thing. 🙂

Brenda Troyer
9 years ago
Reply to  Luci


Wendy W.
9 years ago

And some things change over time… ! A few years ago when I had all littles, I knew that “please let’s have some intelligent conversation, honey” feeling. And now that I homeschool 6 everyday and some are old enough to definitely think we should hold intelligent conversations all day long, when Honey comes home and talks on and on about his day (I sure have loved how well he communicates…)… my eyes just want to glaze over and the thought wants to come, that all I want is some quiet!
But don’t miss that a few days later, at a time that he must be meditating on something, I start wondering, what did I do, why isn’t he talking to me!!!!!
Pretty interesting dance, this married life!

9 years ago

Hahahahaha!!! My stomach muscles are tighter:) yup that’s us! I have to say one thing tho – my sweet husband really does not mind my chatter. I must be so charming:) (!) he really is not irritated if I tell him every thing from my deepest pains to the neighbor’s new dog. But really, just as much as we women ‘need’ to talk, they don’t! I recently chided my husband for not telling me news I considered rather embarrassing not to know, and he calmly replied, ‘I really didn’t think it would affect you one way or another.’ Hmmmm….Mars and Venus. God, You are creative!!

9 years ago

Now wait a minute, Boss! You just ‘approved’ the post??? You didn’t ‘like it’ or ‘love it’ or …….Hmmm, then again, you are a man: brief and to the point.

9 years ago

This is great. Good pointers. I like how you kinda danced around the issue not placing all the blame on the disengaged man nor on the chittychatting, naggy wife. We both feed into the issue but both like to blame each other……right? 😉

9 years ago

You definitely will let him write the upcoming one on talking to women, right? It would be only fair. And that first picture was out of this world good. The little guy just needs his eyes rolled back in his head a little further. (At least that’s the way I do it)

9 years ago
Reply to  Coonskin Merle

I tried, Merle, I tried. His response was nonverbal but quite emphatic.

9 years ago
Reply to  Shari

It’s the Cro-Magnon connection.

9 years ago

Every time I think you have gone and posted the best post ever . . . you pull off another one that just tops the previous ones . . . 😉

9 years ago
Reply to  Shari Zook

The feeling is mutual. We should fix that problem sometime, huh?

9 years ago

Teehee!! 🙂 Oh the joy and righteous fury that go with getting to do life with such a unique specimen! Here’s to much wisdom in interpreting those little “utterings” they call words!

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